Laleh Bakhtiar aims to reignite one of the most divisive debates in Islam by rejecting the idea that chapter 4, verse 34 of the Koran grants a husband the divine right to beat his wife.
Physical punishment is held widely to be an acceptable last resort in cases of disobedience after admonition and banishment from the marital bed. Dr Bakhtiar, 68, told The Times that anyone adhering to this interpretation of the verse had denigrated Islam.
Imams on Arab television stations discuss frequently what one Qatari preacher called a “wondrous verse” and have even given details of rules for wife-beating. In Germany, the verse was cited by a judge as the reason that he refused a fast-track divorce to a Moroccan woman who was seeking to escape a violent marriage.
[...]Aisha Bewley, who translated the Koran with her husband, said that they had opted for the translation “beat”. She said that the verse should be read only with a commentary that placed it in context.
“The best advice is that of the Prophet, who said ‘the worst of you are those who beat your wives’,” she said. Neal Robinson, a professor of Islamic studies, said that the translation of “daraba” as “hit” was inescapable.
He said: “There is a need to put passages like that in their historical context.”
While it would be nice for an Islam to develop in which women were not routinely beaten by their husbands, I doubt that Dr Bakhtiar is going to succeed in her aim. After all, she is going against 1,400 years of wife-beating, and, it would appear, against the opinion of every other Quranic scholar on earth (note, though, how Mrs Bewley and Professsor Robinson seek to avoid the truth about the Quran, by saying that the passages supporting wife-beating have to be read "in context", whatever that means).
The Times report also reveals that Dr Bakhtiar's family fear for her safety. It is interesting, isn't it, that merely suggesting that domestic abuse is bad can offend good Muslims sufficiently to put your life at risk?